Financial Inclusion, Cryptocurrency and the Developing World

Beyond rapidly changing how we create, store and transfer value, cryptocurrencies are accelerating financial inclusion in a way that traditional financial institutions have either been unwilling or unable to. Yet crypto’s possibilities go way beyond banking the unbanked. It allows developing nations and those without access to financial services to avoid the bank completely and transact and grow small businesses using just a mobile phone.

Why financial inclusion is so important

Even today, almost 2 billion people around the world have no access to financial services. That’s approximately one-fourth of the global population. Having nowhere to place savings and not being able to get a bank card, obtain credit or avail of basic services such as life insurance is a horribly crippling disadvantage. These people are effectively unable to take part in their local economies — at least, in meaningful ways.

Gaining access to financial services will allow financially excluded people to improve their lives, increase their earnings, raise their household income and even stash away some savings for troubled times such as the ones we’re living in currently. Entrepreneurs can gain access to credit to start a business and families can acquire land and livestock and ensure that the roofs over their heads are safe. Quality of life can be improved for all.

Further still, impoverished parents can begin to send their children to school, offer them improved living conditions and access healthcare services. Financial inclusion can even lead to the creation of jobs as small businesses expand and need to take on additional personnel. We’re talking about a massive section of the global population that could substantially motor the economy through financial inclusion.

Developing countries are home to a young, tech-savvy population

The vast majority of financially excluded individuals live in developing regions. Yet this also coincides with a young, largely tech-savvy population. In parts of Africa, for example, mobile phones are more common than access to electricity. They have long been used as a primary tool for daily life exchanges and, more recently, for cryptocurrency use.

Across Africa, some 200 million people are between the ages of 15 and 24. This makes them generally well-versed in technology and a naturally captive audience for cryptocurrency adoption. This is mirrored by the population in many developing countries including Indonesia, Turkey and India. A tech-savvy population with a high mobile phone penetration rate — and a pressing need for financial services: This creates the perfect conditions to accelerate the adoption of cryptocurrencies.

As many people can’t access the traditional banking system, being able to earn, save and transact in cryptocurrencies directly from a telephone is hugely beneficial.

Ripe for cryptocurrency adoption

India is currently one of the most promising markets for cryptocurrency adoption and financial inclusion right now. With the regulatory framework improving this year with the Supreme Court of India overturning the Reserve Bank of India’s ban on cryptocurrency, adoption in the world’s second-most populated country could really take off.

India’s national currency, the rupee, has steadily declined in value against the United States dollar over the last decade. And with the COVID-19 pandemic causing increased money printing in India just as in other parts of the world, the rupee is being devalued further. Declining confidence in the national fiat currency as well as the government could be a large catalyst for cryptocurrency adoption in India and in many parts of the world.

Along with Africa and Indonesia, India’s population is young and very familiar with technology. In fact, around 8% of India’s gross domestic product comes from its well-developed IT outsourcing industry. The country has the skills and technical talent to make crypto startups flourish here. And with the largest remittance market in the world, crypto is the perfect use case for unshackling people from the high fees and lengthy delays involved in sending money home.

Onboarding the next wave to crypto

Of course, the right conditions and the potential don’t make crypto adoption a done deal. There is still much work to be done. The scene is being set for more and more crypto startups, remittance companies, exchanges and applications to appear across the developing region. At OKEx, we see the giant potential for crypto adoption in these parts of the world, and we want to be at the forefront of it. This is why our partnership with Paxful, the leading peer-to-peer Bitcoin (BTC) marketplace, is all the more significant.

Paxful has an extensive payment method infrastructure that allows local people to select how they pay for their Bitcoin from more than 300 different ways. This could be gift cards, store points, cash on delivery — or indeed any local method deemed acceptable by the seller. This kind of flexibility allows it to onboard people into cryptocurrency more easily.

They can then send and receive Bitcoin for goods and services and, through OKEx, earn interest on their BTC savings through high-interest accounts as well as make their money work for them accessing advanced trading tools.

As regulation becomes more favorable and the people’s needs are still repeatedly ignored by traditional finance, a young population with high mobile penetration will help financial inclusion to finally become a reality. The next wave will soon be onboarded to crypto, and it’s the developing world that will be leading the charge.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Jay Hao is a tech veteran and seasoned industry leader. Prior to OKEx, he focused on blockchain-driven applications for live video streaming and mobile gaming. Before tapping into the blockchain industry, he already had 21 years of solid experience in the semiconductor industry. He is also a recognized leader with successful experiences in product management. As the CEO of OKEx and a firm believer in blockchain, Jay foresees that the technology will eliminate transaction barriers, elevate efficiency and eventually make a substantial impact on the global economy.

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